Joe Arpaio to Dreamers: ‘Deport them’

"When we come across these kids, or some are older than just kids, then deport them."

Sheriff Joe Arpaio attends a rally by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, October 4, 2016, in Prescott Valley, Arizona. (CREDIT: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Sheriff Joe Arpaio attends a rally by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, October 4, 2016, in Prescott Valley, Arizona. (CREDIT: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — an immigration hardliner who this week announced that he’s running for the U.S. Senate in Arizona — supports the deportation of a group of undocumented immigrants who have the proper documentation to temporarily work and live in the country.

During an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, Arpaio called to deport beneficiaries of an Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants work authorization and deportation relief in two-year increments to nearly 800,000 applicants.

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“Deport them,” Arpaio said. “When we come across these kids, or some are older than just kids, then deport them. You deport them back to the country they came from.”

Arpaio was referring to the DACA program, which the Trump administration phased out in September. The administration set a deadline of six months, until March 5, 2018, for Congress to pass permanent legislation for beneficiaries. Applicants whose statuses expired before the March 2018 date were allowed to extend their DACA statuses for one final two-year renewal. Some DACA recipients have already lost their statuses, but it’s expected that a deluge of beneficiaries will see their statuses expire after March, putting them at risk of deportation. Congressional lawmakers are now scrambling to include permanent relief for DACA recipients within the must-pass government spending bill by January 19.

Arpaio added in the interview that deportation would allow immigrants to “do a lot of good in those countries. They have education here and help out and be good ambassadors from the United States to their country. That’s just my idea.” As NPR reported, “he likened it to the Peace Corps and indicated he’d be open to them returning later to the United States legally.”

Yet on Wednesday, Arpaio told CNN that he would support the president’s decision to back a bill that provides permanent protections for DACA recipients.

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The Senate candidate also said that he wouldn’t close the U.S. border to all immigrants, but indicated that he wanted “the right people to come into our country.” Arpaio’s own parents came to the country from Italy at a time when it was easier to migrate into the country.

In reality, it may be difficult for DACA recipients to be “good ambassadors” if they are returned to their birth countries. For one thing, the median age of entry for DACA recipients is 6 years old, so many people may not speak their birth language. For another, given that about 80 percent (548,000) of the DACA population comes from Mexico, followed by 3.7 percent (25,900) from El Salvador, according to the Pew Research Center, they could be targeted. The U.S. State Department just issued its highest “do not travel” warning for five Mexican states, cautioning against widespread homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery. And while homicide rates in El Salvador decreased 25 percent last year compared to 2016, the country has long held the distinction as one of the most deadly countries.

The Senate candidate further said that he wouldn’t close the U.S. border to all immigrants, but indicated that he wanted “the right people to come into our country.”

Arpaio gained notoriety for setting up his infamous “Tent City,” an outdoor jail where it was common for temperatures to go up into the triple-digits in the Arizona desert heat. He also has a long history of taking controversial actions against the Latinx community, notably sweeping up vulnerable groups during immigration raids including pregnant women, children, and U.S. citizens; placing detainees who committed criminal and civil violations in atrocious conditions, reportedly causing one pregnant detainee to lose her baby; and ignoring hundreds of sexual abuse cases.

A federal judge found Arpaio and his officers guilty of repeated racial profiling against the Latinx community during his tenure as a sheriff overseeing the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. The Senate candidate, who was convicted of criminal contempt, received a presidential pardon from President Donald Trump last year.

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The piece has been updated to reflect Arpaio’s comments from Wednesday saying he would support Trump’s decision to pass legislation to help DACA recipients.